Reggae Ringtone Sparks Tribal Violence in Papua

Reggae Ringtone Sparks Tribal Violence in Papua
, 17 November 2010


By: Banjir Ambarita


One of the houses burned by mobs during the riots between

Wamena and Yoka tribes in Yoka village, Papua.

Jayapura, Papua. Dozens of homes and motorcycles were burned and three people suffered serious wounds on Wednesday following tribal violence in the city of Jayapura.

Hundreds of residents of the Wamena tribe attacked the neighboring Yoka tribe on Wednesday morning, burning 23 homes, 12 motorcycles and two cars, with another 56 homes damaged during the violence, according to the local administration.

The weapons that caused the serious injuries were identified as a bow, an axe and an air rifle.

As hundreds of members of the Wamena tribe descended from the mountains in a fury on Wednesday morning, those in the Yoka tribe could only attempt to save themselves.

Police arrived shortly after the attacks occurred, and fired warning shots into the air. The shots brought an end to the violence.

The attack was triggered by an offensive ringtone circulating among the Yoka tribe that allegedly contained insulting lyrics directed at the Wamena tribe, playing to a reggae beat.

Residents of Wamena decided that they would not tolerate the insults, and therefore made plans to attack the Yoka tribe at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

“Hundreds of them could no longer accept it. They felt it was an insult to their dignity,” Jayapura Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Imam Setiawan said, adding that the man who created the ringtone and sang the lyrics to the reggae beat has already been detained in police custody for questioning.

Imam Setiawan confirmed that the major cause of the attack was the offensive ringtone created by the locals of the Yoka tribe.

“No fatalities were caused as a result of this incident. But we need to check which tribe the three injured victims belong to.”

Tribal wars still happen from time to time in West Papua, where many people live according to indigenous traditions.

In July, the district of Tolikara managed to end a tribal war that saw 75 people wounded by arrows, and one by an axe. The conflict was triggered by a family quarrel and violence, he said.

Local man Apius Wenda had a quarrel with his wife, Betina Wendik, in July and beat her . Betina later ran away to her relatives’ house complaining of her husband’s violent behavior.

The wife’s relatives retaliated by assaulting Apius Wenda when he came to pick her up. Fighting among the relatives eventually escalated into a communal war.

Police seized six cleavers, 13 knives, 50 arrows and six bows used in the attacks.